We all have terrible, no good, and downright atrocious days as human beings. As a wife, mother, and stepmother I have plenty of those days myself.
The difference for stepmoms is that, quite often, there are not many people around us who can relate to our feelings or who have experience with what it’s like to be a stepmom on a, particularly bad day.
Based on my personal experience, I’ve put together 3 tips for stepmoms to help them regroup, recharge, and fight back against those feelings of sadness, resentment, or failure that can visit us on those terrible days. I hope it helps!
1. Separate Expectation from Reality
We all put expectations on ourselves, relationships, and situations. We often expect that our days will go according to carefully planned routines or that people will react based on our assumptions about them.
As many of us come to find out throughout life, this is simply not the case.
A stepmom is in a particularly special situation because, quite often, she has to fly by the seat of her pants regarding her stepchildren’s emotions and reactions on a regular basis. There can be a shift in a stepmom’s relationship with her stepchild from day to day, especially when the stepchild is going back and forth to mom or dad’s every few days.
Depending on how old the stepchild or stepchildren are, how long she has been their stepmom, and what the family dynamics are, a stepmom has to constantly adjust to varying degrees of changing schedules, loyalty binds, awkwardness, or even emotional meltdowns.
Putting unrealistic expectations on top of these types of challenges usually don’t mix very well.
For instance, you can’t expect your stepchild to run to you, showering you with affection the moment they come back to you after being with mom for several days.
Generally, stepchildren need a period of adjustment while transitioning homes and will often feel guilty for missing, liking, or even loving a stepmom. That loyalty bind is very strong but it’s also completely normal.
This doesn’t mean your stepchild doesn’t care about you or love you. It doesn’t mean they hate you. It just means they have a lot to process internally which probably has nothing to do with how good of a stepmom you are.
You can’t place all of your self-worth or value as a stepmom on one day where things didn’t go according to plan, someone ignored you or got upset with you. No one is going to be happy all of the time.
In a blended family, there are many pieces that are broken. Even the most amazing super glue or super stepmom can’t seal those cracks forever.
2. Get Perspective
When you’re in the midst of an emotional crisis as a stepmom, things can seem utterly hopeless. You may think about disengaging from your family or even completely giving up. This is normal. But in order to get yourself back on track mentally, you’ve got to try and put your situation into perspective.
Depending on your individual stepparenting situation, you may have more or less of a daily emotional challenge with your stepfamily dynamic. You might have mostly good days and a few bad or you may have a lot of bad days with only rare great moments in between.
There is no quick fix or even a permanent fix to a lot of issues that come up as a stepmom. But there is perspective. Perspective simply means that you stand back form whatever problem you’re dealing with and think about it more objectively.
For instance, you could ask yourself, is this problem something that will die down in a few days? Is this problem really as big as it feels in the moment? Is there someone I can ask for help to get the problem sorted out? Is there a way I can come at this problem at a later time when I’ve calmed down?
You need to prioritize the issues that come up and try to separate them from your initial emotional reaction. Feel the emotions that come up — yes. But then walk away or go to the bathroom or somewhere alone and think rationally about how to move forward.
3. Remember Who You Are
When you first committed to being a stepmom you probably knew you were signing up for something challenging — but most likely you had no idea about the avalanche of issues that would eventually land on your plate.
Being a stepmom is hard. Period. There will always be feelings of frustration, resentment, and sadness. It’s par for the course. That doesn’t mean those are the only feelings you’ll ever feel. Hopefully, as you become more seasoned in your role as a stepmom, you’ll also experience feelings of pride, satisfaction, and contentment.
But also remember that this is not all that you are. Your role as a stepmom is only one of the many roles you’ll play in your life. You’re also a human being who may have a job, a career, or a passion. You’re a friend, a daughter, maybe a sister, or an aunt. You may also be a wife or partner. You may even be a mom yourself with your own children.
Don’t get tunnel vision in regards to being the perfect stepmom who never fails. You are going to feel like you’ve failed at certain times. But that doesn’t define you as a person. It’s just one part of who you are. And it’s a wonderful part of who you are. It’s the compassionate, kind, and generous part of you that chooses to help raise the child of another.
If you’re constantly upset or stressed about navigating your role as a stepmom, that could be a sign that you need to focus your energy on other things besides just being a stepmom. Remember to laugh and to do things that make you happy every once in a while. Staying miserable or unhappy isn’t doing anyone any good — especially you.
Michelle Zunter is a Canadian-turned-American living, loving, & writing in California. You can read Michelle’s lifestyle blogs about love, sex, relationships, marriage, divorce, parenting, step-parenting & much more at The Pondering Nook. You can also listen to Michelle co-hosting at The Broad’s Way Podcast discussing similar topics.